The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Brookshire Grocery Company

Brookshire Grocery Company

Sustainability

February 21, 2010

Brookshire Grocery Company operates more than 150 supermarkets under four distinct banners – Brookshire’s Food Stores, Super 1 Foods Stores, Olé Foods and ALPS – in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Since their inception in 1928, customer service and corporate social responsibility have been at the core of their business philosophy. We talked to Greg Nordyke, Senior Vice President for Corporate Development and the Executive Sponsor of Brookshire’s sustainability program, about the importance of doing things outside of a traditional business focus in order to preserve and protect the environment.

How does your business define sustainability?

Our mission statement or goal is to protect our environment through responsible education and continuous improvement in our usage of energy and natural resources. 

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

On the corporate level, Brookshire’s has implemented paper and plastic recycling programs. We have distributed bins across all offices for our partners’ convenience. We’ve also replaced Styrofoam break room products with more eco friendly paper. Reusable mugs were given to every corporate partner. Partners are also asked to limit energy usage by simply turning the lights out when they leave, not leaving their computer on overnight, and so on.

Brookshire’s is a member of the EPA SmartWay Program. We have committed to reducing fleet fuel consumption by implementing things such as single wide tires, aluminum wheels, on-board computer systems, pin wheeling, and maximum speed reduction. In 2009, Brookshire’s added Toyota Prius hybrids to our company fleet which are being assigned to our highest mileage drivers. Our Manufacturing group has engineered a system that reduces water usage by cleaning the water and reusing it several times before it is sent down the drain.

In retail, we have redesigned and remarketed our reusable bags. Brookshire’s offers customers a $.05 reward for each bag that is brought back to sack that customer’s groceries. Our customers often say the hardest part is remembering to bring the bags in each time so the $.05 per bag is just a little incentive to help them remember. In addition, we are collecting and recycling plastic bags and plastic bottles at all retail stores. We’ve also looked to reduce energy by replacing standard lighting with more efficient fluorescents and natural lighting. Meanwhile, our Facility Maintenance group has been implementing refrigerant monitoring technologies in order to reduce the amount of CO2 that is leaked into the atmosphere.

What are your short term and long term goals?

Our short term goal was to establish a recycling program in all of our retail stores and to educate partners and customers about this program. We have bins that we use to collect plastic bags and plastic bottles in at all stores. We’ve also tried to raise awareness and renew interest in our long standing cardboard recycling program.

Long term, we’d like to continue to educate our corporate and retail partners and ultimately reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill. We’d like to find a solution to reduce or eliminate our meat and produce waste such as composting. We’d also like to become involved and provide programs for the communities and schools of the towns that we serve. 

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

Overall, we think we’ll find our biggest impact in waste reduction. Our recycling programs, reusable bag sales/acceptance, and other planned initiatives are designed to take commodities out of the waste stream, thereby reducing the amount of items that end up in the landfill.

How do you measure your progress?

Brookshire’s has worked to identify processes in each area of the operation using the best tools and data available to us, and implement sustainable practices in hopes of achieving slow and steady improvement. If we can continually see reductions in waste tonnage, plastic bag usage, and increases in reusable bag credits in our retail stores, we know that the behavior of our Partners and customers is becoming more focused on sustainability.

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

Although it is our desire to be recognized as an industry leader of sustainable practices, we certainly study practices and initiatives that other retailers across the nation have implemented. It is important for us to learn about what works and what doesn’t and why. We can learn from other retailers’ experiences.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Sustainable practices go hand in hand with the food industry because we work with many items such as packaging and food products that have great value in “second use.” For example, the cardboard and plastic our food products are shipped in can be made into many usable materials after being recycled. Food waste like produce and meat trimmings are being used for composting and organic fertilizer development in many parts of the country. Local animal farmers rely on grocer food cull and excess to feed their animals as well. All of these solutions are much better for consumer use rather than ending up in landfills at a great expense to retailers.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

Grocery retail, manufacturing, and distribution is what we do, but we also recognize that we have a great responsibility to cater to our customers’ desire to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and give them a venue to contribute to efforts that can positively affect their own communities through recycling and waste reduction.

 

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom at allison@foodnutritionscience.com.